ALBANY -- New York City's Department of Environmental Protection called on state officials Wednesday to ban natural gas drilling in the Catskills watershed, saying it would pose too great a risk to the city's upstate drinking water system.

The DEP took that position in response to the state Department of Environmental Conservation's draft regulations on gas drilling in New York's portion of the Marcellus Shale region, which includes parts of the Catskills where reservoirs supply drinking water for 9 million people.

The state is taking public comments on its 800-plus page draft until Dec. 31. The city DEP had withheld comment pending its own lengthy review of the potential risks of gas exploration using hydraulic fracturing, which blasts millions of gallons of chemical-laced water deep into the shale to release trapped gas.

Chesapeake Energy, one of the nation's largest natural gas producers, and the only leaseholder in the watershed region, has said it won't drill there because of opposition from politicians and environmental groups. But opponents have continued to call for a ban, saying the company's word isn't good enough.

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